Watch out Kobe Bryant! A new star has been born - one that flips in slam dunks after slam dunks without, breaking a sweat. Meet basketball's latest sensation, Eddie a Southern sea otter that resides at the Oregon Zoo.
What's amazing is that the marine mammal did not start 'playing' the game when he was a young pup, but took it up just recently, at the ripe old age of 16! Given that the lifespan of most sea otters is between 12-20 years, Eddie is . . . An old man!
And, unlike his human counterparts he is not doing it for money or fame (his slam dunks are practiced out of the public eye) but, for his health. Turns out that Eddie suffers from severe arthritis under his elbow and the only way to keep it from getting worse, is by exercising it. However, since sea otters use their back legs and flippers to swim, the zoo keepers had to come up with something innovative and decided to test out Eddie's basketball skills.
Turns out, he is a natural - And while that may impress the rest of us, Jenny DeGroot, the Zoo's lead otter keeper is not surprised. That's because the marine animals have very good dexterity and are well-known for using rocks as tools, to crack open clams.
Eddie and his long time companion Thelma, who were abandoned as pups off the coast of California in 1998, spent the first few years of their lives at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. However, despite intense rehabilitation, the two did not seem to garner enough skills to survive on their own in the wild and were therefore, transported to the Oregon Zoo where they have been on 'loan' from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, since 2000.
Native to the coasts of Northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean, sea otters are the largest member of the weasel family, but among the smallest, marine mammals. Once found in abundance their numbers were greatly reduced by 1911, largely because they were hunted down for their fur. A ban on hunting and efforts by conservationists to revive the population has helped some, but oil spills, disease and a number of other factors has prevented them from fully recovering. Hence after all these years, they still remain on the endangered list of animals.
Resources: fox19.com, huffingtonpost.com.